Game Making Tools for Kids & Big Kids
If you love gaming like I do, you might have always dreamed about being a master programmer ready to wow the world with your creations. Well, dream no more you game design wizard! These day’s making games don’t have to be a profession. In fact, there are many and varied tools out there that can help even the most code illiterate of us get started.
RPG Maker MV
If you’ve got kids that game the days away, why not encourage them to make one instead? The understanding gleaned from tinkering with a family friendly game engine is a great educational tool too! RPG Maker has been around for a long time but it’s perfect for exactly that.
MV, the most recent iteration, lets you cobble together a JRPG style game in no time at all. In fact, it includes a huge library of graphics, music and other resources to get you started. More creative users can import their own artwork etc. just as easily. Because this engine so readily supports simple sprite-based graphics it’s also easy to find assets online. A quick Google for free game graphics will yield enough to keep you busy for ages!
There’s a whole host of pre-made plugins online kindly released for use by their authors. I’ve spent quite a long time playing with RPG maker in the past and even my son loves it!
RPG Maker has had many releases over the years, each available at different prices. MV is the fullest featured of the lot and available on Steam.
Moving the difficulty level on a bit is Construct 2. This tool takes things to the next level in terms of possibilities for making games. You can create just about every kind of game imaginable and the engine will allow you to release it on all sorts of devices. Phones, tablets, PC and other platforms are all supported. 2D graphics are still the focus here, so you can use the same kind of files as in RPG Maker.
The visual programming system in Construct 2 is the real star of the show. I found it a joy to use and very easy to understand. Older children should easily grasp it’s “if this, then that” style of building a game. The interface is really easy to get used to and the community is great.
There’s an extensive collection of tutorials and videos on Scirra’s website (the developer) to get started with. Download the free trial if you want to experiment first! Licenses for the full version are available here.
Gamemaker is more advanced and therefore harder to use than the first two programs for making games. That’s not a criticism, it’s just that to really get the most out of it you have to dive into a bit of real programming. But that’s a good thing. Gamemaker has its own language known as GML (Game Maker Language) that shares many concepts and syntax rules as real, well-known programming tools such as C#.
Basic 3D support is on the list of features for Gamemaker too. However, you should bear in mind that the level of expertise and time investment will be greater than for 2D. Finally, Gamemaker extends its list of supported devices to include certain games consoles.
You can try Gamemaker for free, but with some limitations on its functionality. The base version of the software is completely free.
Unity is perhaps the most well-known engine in the indie development community. It’s an extremely versatile piece of software that extensively supports 3D, 2D and even virtual reality development.
While it’s far too much for younger children to handle, teenagers and we adults should consider it as an option. I say this because Unity is extensible and programmable using the C# programming language.
Learning C# can be a great asset in the real world. Technology and software companies will be happy to see C# fluency on a CV and it opens other doors too. Learning one real programming language means learning further ones will be much easier as only the syntax (The structure of the commands or words used) ever really changes. Programming also demonstrates an aptitude for maths and problem-solving in a useful way.
Unity is also FREE unless you are going to make more than $100,000 a year selling your creations. This has led to a huge and helpful community and a search on YouTube will reveal a wealth of educational videos.
You can download Unity from their website.
Making Games – Other Resources
Codecademy is a website that offers courses on various different programming languages. They cover web development too. YouTube is a great resource for learning all sorts of things, including game development!
Have you ever tried your hand at game development? Would you recommend any engines other than my selection?